Justice as a Lifestyle

Posted on: May 30th, 2012
Director of the Center for Experiential Learning

Justice . . . the word by itself has so many connotations. Some may think of social equity as in equal rights or access to resources and opportunities. Some may think of economic fairness, such as fair trade and living wages. Yet others may think of political involvement, such as democratic structures and civic participation. At the core of the many paradigms of justice, however, is the principle of promoting the dignity of each individual. That is the foundation of my work here at Loyola.

At Loyola University Chicago, our Catholic, Jesuit identity allows us to discuss justice openly – even encourages it. As my colleagues at other public and private institutions talk about “civic engagement” and “volunteerism,” we at Loyola unapologetically openly discuss social justice and the complexity of issues for which we are passionate about. We deconstruct arguments and demythologize topics surrounding issues of social justice in courses. We dissect concepts, theories, and models to create deep understanding of societal problems. We analyze systems and structures to offer solutions to big problems. We think about social justice from many disciplines and many frameworks. As an educational institution, we think a lot.
Yet we also do a lot. At Loyola University Chicago, we have the distinct mission statement that encourages us to “expand knowledge in the service of humanity through learning, justice, and faith.” Not only are we tasked to think about justice (expanding knowledge), but also we are tasked with doing justice (in the service of humanity). Loyola students engage in justice work in a number of ways, from student organization service projects to participating in service-learning courses, from community-based research projects to internships in community organizations. The work of Loyola students is actually hard to measure. Last year, students provided over 91,000 hours of service in service-learning courses, tutored hundreds of children, and contributed to community-based research projects that impacted thousands of lives in Chicago. The work of Loyola students is changing the lives of individuals one-by-one – working toward justice and promoting the dignity of each individual.
My work in the Center for Experiential Learning with a team of other professionals allows me to live this commitment to justice and human dignity through a variety of programs, including service-learning, academic internships, student employment, undergraduate research, and electronic portfolios. Our work is truly multi-dimensional. We work with students to connect them to opportunities in the community. We work with faculty to enrich their teaching and learning strategies. We work with community partner organizations to meet their needs and serve the larger community around their priorities. We do this collaboratively, one person at a time, honoring a student’s passion and vocational goals, respecting a faculty member’s style of engaged learning, and highlighting a community member’s assets.
An alumna of Loyola, heavily involved in a number of justice-related programs and activities, recently contacted us in the Center for Experiential Learning. She reported that after working in a non-profit organization for the past few years, she was returning to graduate school for an advanced degree focused on working in the community. Whether employed in business, medicine, government, or non-profit organizations, our Loyola alums continue their work toward justice. This serves as an ultimate goal of our work in Loyola’s Center for Experiential Learning – to prepare students for lives committed to justice in thought and action, so that justice becomes a lifestyle, rather than a single thought or a lone action.

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